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Feeding Neurons

August 4, 2014

Scientists have accidentally stumbled upon specific brain cells that turn feeding behavior on and off in mice.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

An on/off switch to eat. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists studying brain cells thought to be involved in fear have accidentally discovered that they control eating behavior instead – at least in mice.

DAVID ANDERSON (California Institute of Technology):

Surprisingly, instead of seeing an effect to make the animal more afraid when we activated these neurons, instead, the animals just stopped eating.

HIRSHON:

That’s Caltech neuroscientist David Anderson. His team used a relatively new technique called optogenetics, which allowed them to target the cells, called PKC-delta neurons, with a high degree of precision.

ANDERSON:

We’ve been working on this population of neurons for many years, but none of our previous experiments had implicated them in feeding because we hadn’t done the right kind of experiment.

HIRSHON:

He says if the neurons have the same function in humans, they could play a role in treating eating disorders, with few of the side effects of drugs in use today. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.